Latest statistics show that Batswana are a Facebook people with almost 1 034 600 users and this number which represent 42.7 percent of this country’s population is exposed to many businesses who uses the social network as a medium of marketing and advertising.
But this issue of high numbers using Facebook comes as a double edged sword for the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS), limiting the collection of revenues on the cyber space. Companies advertise on Twitter, Instagram and other social media networks and this would affect BURS tax collection. Local economist told WeekendPost that the problem with this country taxation is collection, advising that gathering of taxes should be maximized or prioritized. When reading the national budget recently finance minister Thapelo Matsheka talked of an overall deficit of P1.98 billion, or -1.1 percent of GDP. Matsheka said this negative budget overturn was due to the lower tax collections during the year.
“Efforts will therefore, be intensified to ensure efficiency in the collection of tax revenues by the Botswana Unified Revenue Service through the continuous review of tax laws and leveraging on the use of ICT to enhance compliance,” said Matsheka. BURS director of tax and policy William Nkitseng told attendees at the recent FNBB budget review that business models are changing and going into the digital space, hence the need for the tax regime to evolve. He said businesses are changing from being SMMEs to big digital business model who come with challenges especially taxation issues.
Botswana want to have a digital economy by 2036 and already there has been much evangelism to impart Fourth Industrial Revolution into this nation’s young minds as it is seen as a major tool to being a high income economy. But there is already a challenging facing BURS coming with digital businesses according to Nkitseng, they are not easy to tax. Nkitseng said they wish to tax everyone doing business in Botswana, your Ubers and Netflixes. He gave an example that Uber can own a fleet of taxis from somewhere and someone is Botswana control the fleet, earns a lot of money but not taxed.
Nkitseng said this country’s tax legal framework is limited because tax is withheld looking at physical presence. “We wish to catch these companies….efforts are being made to catch these people, by the end of this year we will know how we can get hold of companies in the digital model. We want your money you make for Google, Netflix/Uber because they make a lot of money here and we don’t tax them,” he said.
Nkitseng and BURS cannot go to Menlo Park, Carlifornia, USA to withhold taxes from Facebook. Netflix is making money in Botswana with a subscription of around P100 per month, but zero tax. By October 2015 Netflix is said to have had 69.17 million subscriber globally and in this five years the number may have doubled.
Botswana has its own Uber now, Hello Cabs which also use the phone app like Ubers’. Uber has a global market value of P720 billion, it generated P120 billion in gross bookings in the most recent quarter. It boast more than 75 million active Uber riders across the world and is available in more than 80 countries worldwide. Nkitseng believes Botswana should also cash from these plaudits via taxation.
He however said the world is aware that digital companies are not paying taxes. It is already a topical issue in the G20 countries’ tops and a highly debated issue. Even regionally, Africa is moving on coming up with inclusive frameworks for the digital economy. But Nkitseng’s concern was not mentioned in the most important announcement of the year which has the government planning period in mind. Matsheka may have missed the taxing of the digital companies, even though Nkitseng said before the end of this year there will have made a plan on how to tax digital businesses. Maybe taxation of the digital economy could have been hidden in the current financial year but not coming out explicitly, it may come out clear during the year in Nkitseng.
Matsheka only said, “To this end, efforts will continue to be made to expand our tax base through review of tax legislation and regulations, to enable the revenue authority to effectively discharge its mandate. It is for this reason that focusing on simplifying the tax legislation continues to be a priority as a way of enhancing tax compliance, while at the same time, reducing the cost of tax administration.”
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.